What went wrong in the Global Climate Negotiations?

By Pablo Solon

In the last 20 years, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world have, instead of declining, increased, by more than a third. In 1990, GHG emissions were 37 Gigatons (Gt) of CO2e[1]. In 2010, they surpassed 50 GtCO2e[2]. At this rate, if business-as-usual continues, global emissions can reach 58 GtCO2e by 2020, which would be a catastrophe for humanity and nature.

How much will they decrease with the agreements of Cancun, Durban and Doha?

Following the current scenario, the agreements will only succeed to decrease GHG emissions to 57 GtCO2e by 2020. This means that with the UNFCCC outcomes, projected emissions will only be 1 GtCO2e lower than the business-as-usual level. In other words, global emissions will, instead of decreasing, increase by 7Gt CO2e annually until 2020.[3]

Where do we need to be in 2020 to be on the path of staying below 2ºC?

If we want to stay below 2ºC, we would need to be at 44 GtCO2e per year in 2020[4].  This means that the gap between a below 2ºC scenario and where emissions will be in 2020 is 13 GtCO2e.

image

Why are humanity and nature in such a very bad situation?

During the past few years, climate justice activists from all over the world have developed several initiatives to try to avoid exactly this disaster. Now is the time to rethink and assess what went wrong in order to find ways to overcome this situation. This is the purpose of the Climate Space at the World Social Forum in Tunisia this March 2013 and the purpose of this paper is just to kick off the debate on this issue.

The idea is to begin the discussion in order to hear the opinions of many that will not be able to come to Tunisia in March. The purpose is to invite you to comment on this paper in https://climatespace2013.wordpress.com orhttp://www.facebook.com/ClimateSpace2013 or email to climatespace.tunis@gmail.com

We have classified some proposed explanations in three big groups: a) campaign, b) governments and negotiations and c) systemic.

Campaign

  • Our messages were abstract. There was not a clear link between the percentage of emission reductions and the daily lives of people (for example: the link between climate change, food crisis and financial speculation).
  • It was mainly a campaign of climate activists around the climate negotiations in the UNFCCC. We were not able to link the climate struggle with the social movements struggles in relation to hunger, employment, the debt crisis, democracy, water, privatization, etc.
  • The campaign was focused mainly on the responsibility of developed countries and not on the polluting projects of corporations and governments all over the world.
  • Too much attention was given to the negotiations in the United Nations. Most of the actions happened around COP negotiations. Not enough support was given to promote and coordinate at global and regional levels, the national and local actions against polluting activities (coal, fossil fuels, fracking, mega dams, mining, nuclear, etc.)
  • Our campaign against false solutions and market mechanisms was not strong enough. In some cases indigenous peoples and other movements were divided on issues such as REDD, Clean Development Mechanisms, carbon markets, and the green economy.
  • Not enough energy was given to the different countries to analyze, unmask and propose different alternatives to National Plans on Climate Change and National Energy Plans.
  • Too few initiatives to reclaim the rights of people to decide on climate related issues were developed (consultations, citizen initiatives, etc).
  • In the majority of countries there are still no strong national platforms on climate change that bring together all initiatives on climate change.
  • Some sectarian attitudes undermine common actions.

Governments/negotiations

  • The United States, historically, the biggest emitter, is mainly responsible for the failure of the negotiations. If they are allowed a 3% emission reduction until 2020 based on 1990 levels, others will do the same.
  • Unites States and China behind closed doors worked together to have a weak outcome in order to keep business as usual.
  • The division between developed and developing countries masks the common interest of the elites and corporations in developed and developing countries.
  • The negotiations were reduced to only a number: the percentage of greenhouse gas emission reductions. Other factors were left aside like how the fossil fuel reserves have to be left under the ground.
  • The negotiations were too complicated to be followed by the people and there were too many technicalities, loopholes and market mechanisms that made it even worse and more difficult to understand.
  • The negotiations were focused on reductions of emissions produced in a country and not in emissions consumed in a country.[5]
  • The emissions of warfare and maritime and air transport until now are not included.
  • Issues like compliance or the creation of an International Court of Environmental and Climate Justice are far from even being considered.
  • The framework of the climate negotiations is the problem and has to change. (How should it change and is this possible in the UNFCCC?)

System

  • The economic crisis reduced attention to the climate crisis.
  • There was a country approach and not a class approach.
  • The issue of endless growth was not challenged because we were attached to the paradigm of development for developing countries. (What is development? What are the limits? Development for whom and how? In other words the link between development, prosperity and redistribution.)
  • Corporations have captured the climate negotiations.
  • It was naïve to think that an issue like climate change that will severely impact on the capitalist system would be genuinely addressed in an intergovernmental negotiation in the United Nations.
  • Climate Change implies a transformation of the capitalist system and a new redefinition of prosperity or wellbeing. The current negotiations can’t deliver a solution at this level.
  • Systemic alternatives like food sovereignty, rights of nature, defense of the commons, happiness index and others are still not fully socialized.
  • The mistake was to think of it as a campaign and not as a long-standing global battle to change the system.

We have to look into the past to fight for the future

Many of these bullet points are meant simply to push the debate forward. For sure several aspects are missing and the interconnection between them have to be developed. An evaluation of what has happened is key to rethink our strategies and build a common action plan.

(Next living paper: how to overcome this situation?)

[1] CO2e: “Carbon dioxide equivalents” is a unit of measurement that allows the effect of different greenhouse gases and other factors to be compared using carbon dioxide as a standard unit for reference.

[2] “Current global greenhouse gas emissions, based on 2010 data from bottom-up emission inventory studies, are estimated at 50.1 GtCO2e…” UNEP, 2012 Emissions Gap Report.

http://www.unep.org/publications/ebooks/emissionsgap2012/portals/50143/Emissions2012_Exec%20Summary_EN.pdf

[3] “If countries implement their lower-ambition pledges and are subject to “lenient” accounting rules, then the median estimate of annual GHG emissions in 2020 is 57 GtCO2e…” UNEP, 2012 Emissions Gap Report

[4] “Emission scenarios analyzed in this report and consistent with a “likely” chance of meeting the 2°C target have a peak before 2020, and have emission levels in 2020 of about 44 GtCO2e…” UNEP, 2012 Emissions Gap Report  

[5] One-third of carbon dioxide emissions associated with the goods and services consumed in developed countries are actually being emitted outside the borders of those nations, mostly in the developing world.

9 comments

  1. If readers would like to take action in response to this data, one option is to consider participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’: http://tinyurl.com/flametree

    Robert J. Burrowes

  2. I am Tom Athanasiou from EcoEquity.

    What went wrong? It’s a difficult question. What could have gone right, given the stakes? Given the power of the fossil cartel? Given that the crisis challenges the rich everywhere, in the South as well as the North? Given that none of us know the way forward?

    I write to you not to speculate about What Went Wrong, but to speak about the future. To wit — I strongly believe that we have to stop negotiating by opposition and rather speak for a position that we actually support. Something that we think might actually work. I think, specifically, that, around the world, civil society groups should advocate for a justice-based position that would actually make sense, as the basis of a global emergency mobilization.

    This would not be based on a defense of the old annexes. And it would not be a pure “carbon debt” system that the rich in the South could hide behind, thus allowing the rich in the North to hide behind them, in infinite regress. Rather, it would be something based on Capacity as well as Responsibility. Something that took inequality within countries into account. Something like Greenhouse Development Right. Maybe different, but with the same intention. Something dynamic. Something that took account of Capacity, and Need, and Ambition, as well as Responsibility.

    Have you seen the new CAN position of CBDRRC? I presume that you do not like CAN, but this is a step forward. Here it is. . .

    New interpretation of CBDRRC

    CAN believes that the ADP negotiations can only succeed if they reaffirm, and embody, the principles of differentiated responsibility and capability, as well as other key equity principles and goals like “equitable access to sustainable development.” As a step towards that end, CAN calls upon the Parties to consider a new, dynamic, principle- and indicator-driven interpretation of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”

    More precisely, CAN believes that the Parties should seek a new approach to global differentiation that is transparently based upon explicit and clearly-stated equity principles, and upon indicators that embody those principles. Not that such an approach can alone define national obligations. But it can productively inform the negotiations, and it can help to shape a common understanding – a shared vision – of the equity challenge.

    Parties should consider various approaches. One possibility is a hierarchical approach in which the existing annexes are reworked and then subdivided into finer annexes. Another is a spectrum approach in which all countries are assigned values on an agreed equity index. What is critical is that the equity principles that underlie any proposed approach be specified, embodied in well-designed indicators, and used to estimate a set of national obligations – for both mitigation and international financial and technical support.

    In the spectrum approach, the “equity index” would be composed of a basket of more specific equity indictors. This basket would have to contain well-designed indicators that measure both responsibility and capacity, and could include, inter alia, measures of per capita income, measures of standards of living, measures of historical responsibility, and measures of intranational income inequality.

    Such an approach would not preclude country groupings (like today’s annexes). In fact, it would make such groupings more coherent. For example, the set of countries that is high in capacity and responsibility would change over time – an important fact, given that such countries are candidates for ambitious, legally-binding economy-wide quantified emissions reduction targets.
    Of course many other kinds of commitments are also possible, and desirable. Obvious examples include renewable energy and/or energy efficiency targets and sectoral targets, all of which could have various kinds and degrees of bindingness. Also, it should be noted that some kinds of actions – for example, nationally-appropriate mitigation actions – can be explicitly contingent on financial and technical support.

    Finally, it must be said that all commitments and actions should be amenable to measurement and reporting.

    All the best,

    Tom Athanasiou

  3. Jim Thomas ETC Group (Montreal)

    Pablo, cheers – this is a useful start. I find one of the most clarifying comments i’ve heard in a long time about the failure of the climate ‘campaign’ is Naomi Klein’s observation that Climate Change emerged as an ‘issue’ at exactly the worst historical time – in the 90′s and early 2000′s when the triumph of economic globalisation, the neoliberal model and the washington consensus was at its absolute height. Against that background, classic ‘climate campaigners’ weren’t well equipped with the analytical tools to meaningfully take apart the problem and track a systemic way forward and internationally it was never going to be possible to pursue a systemic response to what is clearly a systemic problem – so instead much of that energy flowed into furthering ineffectual neoliberal responses that tinkered at the edges: – market mechanisms, realising technological opportunities in energy markets, faith in complex elite negotiations and science expert bodies.

    The flip side of that is that we are now in a post-financial crash moment when the neoliberal modes of thinking are supposedly more widely exposed as deficient (hence Occupy etc) and the industrial-political establishment supporting it are scrambling to construct band-aids or to re-format the whole project (hence the Green Economy). So real opportunities maybe exist to get in amongst the mechanisms of that bigger economic reconstruction/transformation and place the ‘climate’ issue as part of the same ‘campaign’ to resist a transformation to the next false neoliberal project (the bioeconomy, the green economy, financialising nature, the big industrial technofix etc) and to build and valourise real participative, democratic community-based economies. As you say here, its in the movements that present a real, grounded fully workable systemic alternative – like the food sovereignty movement, solidarity economies etc that points to a way forward.

    I’d add to your list that not only were negotiations and therefore campaigns focused too narrowly on ‘numbers’ (ppm, degrees centrigrade etc) but that classic “climate campaigners” on teh ground were and remain extremely focused on the energy and transport systems and are only belatedly considering the opportunities in addressing the agriculture and food system where there is a lot of unneccesary emissions tied to a deeply unjust means of production and close to the emotional interests of billions of people . Once again, the food sovereignty movement has been there for some time..

  4. Sandy Gauntlett

    The really big problem is that we allowed the climate negotiations to be set up in such a way as to allow profit to be made out of peoples fear and misery.

    Even if the UNFCCC reaches its target, or even better if we manage to convince them that more is need and we reach two degrees, this is still not enough to save many of the low lying islands in the Pacific, Asia and the Caribbean. I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like for my neices to wake up in the morning and realise that some of their neighbours no longer exist. Or what it will be like for them to have friends who are climate refugees and who were forced to leave behind the bones of the anscestors in order that Europe and the US (along with their syncophantic allies) can continue to plunder the planet way beyond their fair share of the Global Commons.

    We have to influence our leaders into getting rids of the ass kissing negotiators who negotiated us all into a genocide pact. And if they will not do it, then we all have to collectively get rid of those leaders. I cannot even remember who I first heard say it but the way you create change is door by door, street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, city by city.

    I dont know about all your countries (obviously) but in mine, ther eis a very small percentage of voters who determine the outcome of our elections, so if we go door by door and convince the people to give their votes to the mojor opposition parties (where the negotaitors are useless) but at the same time we tell that party that if they do not immediately step up to the plate then we will shift those votes to the next party down the political food chain till we reach someone who is scared enough of people power to do something meaningful, then we create in the politicians the same climate of fear that they are creating in the people by doing nothing of note. I used to work for a Minister in the Govt here. Believe me when I say that any politicians first loyalty is to themselves. If we can convince them that we have the power and know how to be able to get rid of them, then we can inspire them to bigger and better things

    And we have to coinvince the countries under immediate threat to take a case to the Human Rights Commission against the UN itself for being derelict in it’s duty of protection

  5. Simone Lovera:

    Thanks for starting this debate. I think many of your bullet points are valid, but as a so-called ‘Rio fossil’ (someone who followed the UNCED process and the Rio Conventions since 1990) I want to highlight one historical dimension that, in my personal view (based on my personal research) is more central to what went wrong than any of the other issues you raised. It is part of (chapter 2 of) a more elaborate analysis of how and why market-mechanisms have penetrated international forest regimes.

    In summary: As you may know, the UNFCCC was negotiated under great pressure as key figures in the UN wanted to make sure it was adopted prior to Rio ’92. In 1992, environmental policy making was still a relatively new discipline dominated by relatively progressive (/social-democratic, not necessarily alterglobalist) thinkers. As a result, like many other Rio agreements, the Convention is marked by rather progressive principles and proposals supporting a clear central role for governments rather than corporations and markets, but also by relatively vague and non-binding commitments as there was no time to agree on more firm agreements. So everybody left Rio with the feeling that something stronger had to be agreed upon, in the form of a Protocol with binding commitments.

    However, there was a lively debate just after 1992 whether these commitments should be in the form of so-called ‘policies and measures’, that is, specific rules that prescribe exactly how GHG reductions had to be achieved (e.g., more investment in solar, more public transport etc.) or so-called ‘caps’, that is, a country would simply commit to a certain number with which it wants to reduce GHG emissions, and it may decide itself how to do it. The option to subsequently combine these caps with trade was already mentioned by some in 1993 and 1994, but as Larry Lohmann describes in his excellent book on carbon trading it was actually mainly the US who pushed for it initially.

    As we all know, through the Kyoto Protocol countries opted for the caps and trade system. In my view, this has created three broad categories of problems:

    First, countries were free to promote nuclear energy, industrial bioenergy and all kinds of other false and unsustainable solutions as policies to reduce emissions, leading to the overload of problems we have now (one study even claimed more people have died indirectly from biofuels than from climate change the past years).

    Second, the fascination with caps and figures in the Kyoto Protocol system has taken away a tremendous amount of negotiation time and energy that should have been dedicated to real, sustainable policies and measures. It has also weakened the position of small countries as many small southern delegations are incapable to follow the climate process these days, and as a result they can easily be cheated by people like the (non-Papuan) coordinators of the so-called Coalition for Rainforest Nations that has been promoting REDD+ so successfully. (Likewise, I would be surprised if there are more than 10 people on the entire planet who are really able to follow and fully understand the LULUCF negotiations, which form the likely basis for the future of REDD+.)

    Third and perhaps most importantly, caps came with trade, creating an entire powerful sector with strong financial interests in trading hot air no matter the consequences for the climate. The mainstreaming of environmental policy has automatically triggered a strong integration of mainstream, neo-liberal, market-oriented discourse in environmental policy making (call it the Steiner-effect…), and this was another factor that caused carbon markets to end up center stage in the climate debate. We all know about the many different problems market-based mechanisms have caused in many fields. Remarkably, though, carbon markets were always seen as a great success story by fanatics of market-based solutions. So if we would succeed to permanently undermine them (scrap the ETS!) it would have consequences that are way beyond climate change.

    So in conclusion, I think that Kyoto is what went wrong in the Global Climate Negotiations.

    Of course, I am aware there is absolutely no consensus on an anti-Kyoto position in the climate justice movement yet: some of my closest colleagues used to make a rightful point the past years that it would be really dangerous to let the Kyoto Protocol be killed before we have something better. But considering where we are now, post-Doha, I would really like to discuss how we can get rid of the cap and trade system in the global climate regime (- in fact, most alternatives to REDD propose systems that are not based on numerical caps but rather on policies like recognizing Indigenous territorial rights. And please note there is a lively debate about “the danger of deductive goals and targets” in the follow-up process to Rio+20 as well).

    I look forward to our discussions in Tunisia.

  6. Anandi Sharan:

    I don’t really understand why you quote emissions in tCO2e.

    Carbon dioxide by itself is the root of all problems and can be easily regulated as there are only 1000 plus installations/corporations in the world, provided you ensure the permits are forced on the extraction companies and not on the consumer companies like under the UNFCCC AAU system.

    Here is the letter I wrote to as many ministers whose email addresses I had and all the delegations of the following Parties.

    Proposals for the new ‘universal climate convention’ – sent to you, the ministers and delegations of USA, China, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Canada, Iran, UK, South Korea, Mexico, Italy, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, France, Spain, and Poland.

    Dear All.

    1. The division of Parties into ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ must be abolished and the remaining atmospheric space shared equally on a per person basis.

    In preparation for this, all Parties will voluntarily bring down their emissions by 40% and therefore their GDP by 26% by 2015.

    2. If Parties behave in a philosopher-statesman-like manner that will be best. It would mean acknowledging that the USA and China between them emit 40% of emissions and must agree urgently and quickly to bring down emissions and GDP; the next 18 countries emit 35% of global carbon dioxide, and the rest of the world 25%. So if the 20 countries resposnible for 75% of emissions of carbon dioxide, viz. USA, China, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Canada, Iran, UK, South Korea, Mexico, Italy, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, France, Spain, and Poland can agree to all the arrangements, the rest will follow.

    3. So, after the voluntary reductions, there must be a legal sharing of the remaining finite atmospheric space on an equal per person basis from 2015 onwards.

    4. The quantum of ‘universal’ assigned units (denominated in 1 tonne of carbon dioxide) issued every year on the basis of equal amounts per person aggregated on the basis of population to the Parties, must come down by 0.25 tCO2 per person per annum, i.e. 10 equal reductions to zero.

    5. GDP is expected to decline at the rate 66% of the decline in emissions. This must be part of the target.

    6. Each environment ministry receives the quantity of ‘climate unit currency’ into their Party accounts, and only allows extraction and mining of fossil fuels and uranium in their territory to the extent that the companies have been allocated permits.

    Explanatory Political Note:

    Parties will have to accept that the political values of the nation state if it is to survive will have to undergo a dramatic shift from wealth orientation to health orientation.

    Alternatively the nation state that the Party represents may die (given the constrained energy base of the society) and the population will re-organise into smaller ‘sovereign societies’ based on the energy from animal husbandry and human labour.

    These smaller ‘sovereign societies’ will have their own constitutions and local currencies that have no ‘value’ outside their country. These millions of new sovereign entities will have laws prohibiting the extraction and use of fossil fuels and uranium, amongst other things, and will put the health of their citizens before wealth. They may all commit to planting trees – around 13811 trees per person will have to be planted and maintained, with humanity without borders perhaps migrating to other places with more space, to do such planting, such migrants welcomed there, as climate rescue workers, without xenophobia, in the spirit of common humanity -, to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to get back to 250 ppm.

    Please urgently plan on this basis to save humanity on this Earth. Please note that nothing is to be gained from GDP except joblessness and disaster. Humanity can easily manage without fossil fuels, nuclear energy or GDP, but not without soul.

    Anandi Sharan and Sudhir Vombatkere, The Green Party of India


    Foto: Dear Pablo. We are preparing for 2015. I don’t really understand why you quote emissions in tCO2e. Carbon dioxide by itself is the root of all problems and can be easily regulated as there are only 1000 plus installations/corporations in the world, provided you ensure the permits are forced on the extraction companies and not on the consumer companies like under the UNFCCC AAU system. Here is the letter I wrote to as many ministers whose email addresses I had and all the delegations of the following Parties. — Proposals for the new ‘universal climate convention’ – sent to you, the ministers and delegations of USA, China, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Canada, Iran, UK, South Korea, Mexico, Italy, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, France, Spain, and Poland. Dear All. 1. The division of Parties into ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ must be abolished and the remaining atmospheric space shared equally on a per person basis. In preparation for this, all Parties will voluntarily bring down their emissions by 40% and therefore their GDP by 26% by 2015. 2. If Parties behave in a philosopher-statesman-like manner that will be best. It would mean acknowledging that the USA and China between them emit 40% of emissions and must agree urgently and quickly to bring down emissions and GDP; the next 18 countries emit 35% of global carbon dioxide, and the rest of the world 25%. So if the 20 countries resposnible for 75% of emissions of carbon dioxide, viz. USA, China, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Canada, Iran, UK, South Korea, Mexico, Italy, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, France, Spain, and Poland can agree to all the arrangements, the rest will follow. 3. So, after the voluntary reductions, there must be a legal sharing of the remaining finite atmospheric space on an equal per person basis from 2015 onwards. 4. The quantum of ‘universal’ assigned units (denominated in 1 tonne of carbon dioxide) issued every year on the basis of equal amounts per person aggregated on the basis of population to the Parties, must come down by 0.25 tCO2 per person per annum, i.e. 10 equal reductions to zero. 5. GDP is expected to decline at the rate 66% of the decline in emissions. This must be part of the target. 6. Each environment ministry receives the quantity of ‘climate unit currency’ into their Party accounts, and only allows extraction and mining of fossil fuels and uranium in their territory to the extent that the companies have been allocated permits. Explanatory Political Note: Parties will have to accept that the political values of the nation state if it is to survive will have to undergo a dramatic shift from wealth orientation to health orientation. Alternatively the nation state that the Party represents may die (given the constrained energy base of the society) and the population will re-organise into smaller ‘sovereign societies’ based on the energy from animal husbandry and human labour. These smaller ‘sovereign societies’ will have their own constitutions and local currencies that have no ‘value’ outside their country. These millions of new sovereign entities will have laws prohibiting the extraction and use of fossil fuels and uranium, amongst other things, and will put the health of their citizens before wealth. They may all commit to planting trees – around 13811 trees per person will have to be planted and maintained, with humanity without borders perhaps migrating to other places with more space, to do such planting, such migrants welcomed there, as climate rescue workers, without xenophobia, in the spirit of common humanity -, to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to get back to 250 ppm. Please urgently plan on this basis to save humanity on this Earth. Please note that nothing is to be gained from GDP except joblessness and disaster. Humanity can easily manage without fossil fuels, nuclear energy or GDP, but not without soul. Anandi Sharan and Sudhir Vombatkere, The Green Party of India —

  7. Derrick O’Keefe:

    I read with interest your assessment of the UN climate talks. I think much of what you critique about activists’ approach to the UN talks is correct; there is also just the problem of Bolivia’s isolation and the fact that even leftist governments are dependent on exports of fossil fuels … I wonder how much China played a negative part in prevent Bolivia’s ALBA partners from really standing behind your position in 2010?

    I wrote with a couple of questions in mind:

    – What do you think are the prospects of a massive, global day or days of action April 20, 21, 22 — Earth Day 2013? I truly believe it is time for a global mobilization as big or larger than the great Feb. 15 2003 protests against the Iraq War. The 2003 protests were organized in 6 weeks, fuelled by a callout from the European Social Forum. The World Social Forum could play a vital role for climate justice is it amplified a callout for a global day on Earth Day 2013. The U.S. debate around KeystoneXL would give a big push to this mobilization; obviously is 350 could be on board that would be great.

  8. Benito Mueller:

    Thank you for your article on “What went wrong in the global climate change negotiations?”, and for your request for feed-back.

    I would like to draw your attention to a report I produced for the UNFCCC Secretariat (which was meant to go to SBI, but was blocked by Saudi) after Copenhagen, with respect to your question

    The framework of the climate negotiations is the problem and has to change. (How should it change and is this possible in the UNFCCC?)

    It can be downloaded at: http://www.oxfordclimatepolicy.org/publications/documents/UNFCCC-TheFutureoftheProcess.pdf

  9. The UNFCCC process based on nation states negotiating with each other has clearly failed and something else needs to be evolved in its place. This is a process that must be initiated and developed by non-state and non-corporate actors who are not fatally compromised by their deep involvement in the fossil fuel economy.

    The end of the process seems incredibly ambitious but it is necessary nonetheless – we need a global commons organisation to manage the earth’s atmosphere. At this stage it is not possible to simply and directly “set up” a global commons organisation for managing the earth’s atmosphere but we can envisage the sort of processes that might eventually lead to one’s creation.

    (a) In this respect the task is to knit together the connections between multiple organisations, groups and commoners. The aim is to create a dense network with multiple peer to peer climate related commons nodes based in real activities. And one must then must network these active climate networks.

    (b) Each of these networks must have a practice and a track record for activity that gives it credibility and influence and builds the practical power of the networked movement. For example:

    (i) a track record for protecting and supporting commoner and indigenous peoples in customary and common land rights, in their protection of forests and thus in their protection of carbon sinks.
    (ii) Or, again, a track record for successful legal action – so far successful legal action to restrain fossil fuel sales has been scarce but with evidence mounting of the future damages the legal scope for action by communities to protect their interests will increase with the aim of getting the courts to restrain fossil fuel sales through injunctive or declaratory relief – eg coastal communities, port cities, island states, farmers etc
    (iii) Or a reputation for comprehensive information coverage pinpointing which fossil fuel companies operate where and sell how much fuel – this information will be vital to exercise controls over them and already exists in embryo in projects like ‘coal swarm’

    (c) It is at the later stage, and out of the networking of these kind of processes, that it might then be eventually possible to ‘set up’ a global climate commons organisation, particularly, as one would expect, if governments are floundering, and thus in need of credible and plausible alternative agencies to carry forward policy on their behalf.

    (d) The ultimate aim would then be to systematically restrain fossil fuel companies by banning fossil fuel sales altogether without a permit for a very small and reducing amount of fossil fuels. Such a small number of permits for production would be sold and the revenues thus raised distributed or used for purposes agreed in the climate network to be the most equitable.

    Brian Davey (Feasta Climate Group and Cap and Share UK)

    Please note this is written as a personal view and is not necessarily to be taken as the view of all in Feasta

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